Gary James' Interview With
Andy Kim

He was born Andrew Youakim in Montreal, Quebec, but the world knows him as Andy Kim.

Andy Kim earned his first Gold Record for a song called "Baby I Love You". That record was a Top 5 hit that ended up selling over 1.5 million copies. That was enough to win Andy the Top Male Vocalist Juno (Award) in Canada in 1968. Other hit records followed, including "So Good Together" and "Jingle Jangle".

Following "Jingle Jangle", was a song that shot to the top of the charts in 1969 for 8 weeks, was named Record Of The Year by Billboard Magazine and sold 13 million copies! That record, an Andy Kim signature song was called "Sugar Sugar".

In 1969, Andy won his second Juno as Top Male Vocalist. In 1974, Andy wrote, produced and released on his own record label, a song called "Rock Me Gently". That record spent 4 months on the charts and was a number one hit world-wide.

Andy Kim has enjoyed 19 hit singles, 12 in the US alone, and sold over 30 million records world-wide. What a remarkable career Andy Kim has had - with so much still to come.

Q - Andy, what I find so strange about your career is, your songs are well-known, your voice is well known, but your face is not as well known. What's the explanation behind that?

A - Well, I don't know why that is, but, I think it's a good thing now, because the songs are still getting played. There's an incredible resurgence of Andy Kim. I think when people see me, it's a surprise..."Oh, that's the guy." I've started touring again. People are coming out and my e-mails reflect the fact that people are totally interested and surprised at that's what Andy Kim looks like today and that's what's going on. I don't understand the dynamics of how it got this way, but, I'm here.

Q - You traveled from Montreal to New York City in 1967 to make it in the music business. As I understand it, you only had $40 in your pocket. Is that correct?

A - That's the only money I had.

Q - You were 15 years old?

A - Yes.

Q - So, where did you stay? Even back then, I don't imagine $40 would get you very far.

A - I was scheduled to be there for a couple of days. I stayed at the "Y". I was able to get that money from odds and ends and my older brother helped put in a couple of dollars. But, it gave me an opportunity to stay in New York and I was very frugal. I didn't eat. I had a Nathan's hotdog once a day, which was near pennies then. Forty dollars now gets you nowhere, but it was seventeen dollars a night. I was kind of OK. I had a return ticket that was already paid for. So, when I look back on it now from an adult place, I mean that's kind of scary.

Q - What did your parents say when you told them you were going to New York?

A - They were completely against it, and I was completely for it. I threatened that I'd run away. My spirit had programmed them through the years that said I am going to do this. So, they made it as safe as possible. I called about seven or eight times a day, collect, home. Every time I saw a phone booth I'd make a phone call. My mother would cry on the phone and ask me to come back home, but I had something else to do.

Q - How long were you in New York?

A - For about three days.

Q - When you got to New York, what doors did you knock on?

A - I went with a form of understanding because I was a good student in school. I continued to be a good student through my life. I was one of those kids that would not only buy the record, but I would be excited and interested in who wrote what and where did this originate. I kind of connected on two levels, one of them being from a visceral feeling of what a record sounded like, but also on who created it. What was the song? So, I basically knocked on could buy Billboard Magazine at the time or you could look at a Billboard Magazine and it would give you addresses of where the record companies were. So, that's what I did. But I had ear-marked Jeff Barry before I left. There was something about the records he was involved in, the songs he had written and also the songs he had produced, The Dixie Cups "Going To The Chapel", part of the Phil Spector sound, the "Do Ron Ron", "Then He Kissed Me", obviously "Be My Baby" and all of those hits. And also the great sounds he was producing with Neil Diamond. I went on a fact finding tour because in Montreal in those days, I could not find anyone to tell me what to do. So, it was basically a fact-finding trip for me. I was lucky enough to be able to play a song for Jeff Barry, and he loved what he heard.

Q - What was your approach to the people whose doors you knocked on? "Hi, I'm Andy Kim..."

A - "Hi, I'm Andy Kim. I'm from Montreal, Canada. I have an appointment this afternoon with Columbia" or I'd make a story up. I was in town already having appointments with a company that already existed. But, I didn't have that. So, if I went to Company A, I said "later on, I have an appointment with Company B, to play them my song in the afternoon. I thought I'd come here." When I went to company B, I'd say "I have an appointment with Company A." That's what I did.

Q - So, you knocked on the doors of record companies?

A - It was not so much knocking on doors but at the time, it wasn't as layered as it is now. I'd be able to go to a receptionist and say "Can Jeff Berry in?" She'd say "hold on a sec, I'll see if he's in yet. Can I have your name?" Now there are guards at the gate. It's different. But then, it was kind of like being able to walk around freely. It was easier to get to people. It wasn't easier to get them to like your music, but it was easy to see somebody. I was able to walk into the offices of Lieber and Stoller, which is where Jeff Barry was at the time. It's 1619 Broad (way). You go into the Brill Building..."Hi, Jeff Barry. Can you tell me what floor? Oh, the 9th floor." You get in the elevator and some guy takes you to the 9th floor. In those days, they had guys who would run the old style elevators. And then you walked down the hall and it said something on the door and you were able to walk in. It's different now, you know.

Q - So, that's how you got the attention of Jeff Barry?

A - Yes. I went to his offices and I said "I'm here from Montreal, Canada. I have some songs and have some appointments in the afternoon." If it was in the afternoon that I was in someplace, I'd say "I just had an appointment with such and such and I'm seeing such and such tomorrow." So, I made it like I was busy. And again, I was 15 years old, going on 25.

Q - You were smart for a 15 year old.

A - Well, I grew up in the ally ways, you know. I was a street kid. I think we all brothers and I. We did not come from a place that had money. We grew up in the tenements of Montreal. Some of that $40 was money that I collected from coke bottles in the alley ways and sold 'em at 2 cents apiece with my kid brother. It sounds like the Dark Ages, but it wasn't that long ago. But people forget, it was a different world. You could actually walk into someone's office. You could actually play somebody a song. It was before it started being run by people who didn't know anything about music.

Q - Do you play an instrument?

A - A little bit of piano, but mostly guitar. I've written a couple of songs on piano, but basically this is how I view myself as a musician; I'm a songwriter who plays an instrument and not a guy who plays an instrument. Let me back-track. I'm a songwriter who uses an instrument to help write the songs. I am not a musician who writes songs. But basically, I know there are guys that, if I lived a thousand years, I would not play as well as the likes of the guys who are on my CD. There are guys that are awesome players like Elton John or Phil Collins, a lot of great musicians who also write. But, I'm basically a songwriter who uses the instrument to help write the songs.

Q - After the songs hit on the radio, did you like being famous?

A - Yes.

Q - It says in your biography on your website, that pressures you were under in your personal life caused you to bow out of the spotlight. What pressures are you talking about?

A - Well, basically there's one thing being famous, and being famous also brings with it a responsibility. What really happened was on a personal basis, and how it affected my personal life, losing my father and all of that stuff. When you have success at an early age, I don't think you grow up as well as you should. And that's where the angst was. When I lost my Dad, I started growing up basically. So, I think that's what it meant.

Q - You formed your own record label?

A - Yes.

Q - Was that after you got out of the spotlight?

A - I've been out of the spotlight a couple of times. One of them after my early records and my Archie days. I had written this song that I really loved. I thought it was like, really cool. I went into the studio. I was the writer, I was the artist and I was also the producer. I had no record company, so I spent the money and produced this record. A year later, nobody wanted it out. I tried to give it away for free...just put it out please! So, I came back to Canada, which is where I was born and started the record company called ICE, before it was even a cool term...excuse the connection there. That song was "Rock Me Gently".

Q - Did it cost a lot of money to start a record company?

A - No. In 1974, it was not a year of videos. So, it really didn't cost me that much money. I made more money with that one recording than I did with all the other stuff I had done. Sometimes your prayers aren't answered immediately. There's a bigger picture and if you allow it to transform itself, it'll work.

Q - Are you ever sad that you didn't join your three brothers in the family business...the grocery business?

A - No.

Q - How did I know you would say that?

A - (laughs)

© Gary James. All rights reserved.

* Andy Kim placed seven singles on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1968 and 1974.